Waking up at 5.30 am should be illegal, and in Arizona, I’m surprised it isn’t already. However, taking advantage of the time difference and still-pleasant morning weather, I wandered the trails to the waterfall and around the resort, shocked at the ease with which I could enter in conversations with passers-by.
At last, after lunch, it was time for the first plenary session, titled “The War of the Worldviews”. It was a debate (or “foodfight”, as David Chalmers referred to it) between Susan Blackmore (who, as I had mentioned in a previous post, I had been dying to meet), Leonard Mlodinow, Deepak Chopra, and Menos Kafatos. Though the debate likely changed no one’s views, I greatly enjoyed it. The first two argued that consciousness could be explained through scientific study, without the need of an ‘disembodied’ spirit. The latter two disagreed. In particular, Deepak Chopra seemed to believe that meditating on one’s problems would make them go away, and seemed to disregard the laws of physics entirely. As expected, I mostly agreed with Susan, and found Leonard’s perspective resonating with me as well; Deepak Chopra’s speech was eloquent, but neither his points nor attitude appealed to me.
Later that day, I attended part of the concurrent session on meditation. The first talk was interesting and quite scientific, showing how the dopamine release in meditation does not diminish over time and practice, but only increases. The presentation that followed was far less interesting, and seemed quite straightforward and yet, the experiments seemed poorly executed. After a short break (I escaped for a few minutes to sit on a bench outside and watch hummingbirds flit through the air around my head), I returned to hear the final speech, by Gary Weber (with whom I had briefly spoken in the morning), a meditator himself, whose thinking process has been dramatically altered by meditation–his fMRI scan shows his brain in a constant state of quiet–of meditation–even when simply at rest. I was intrigued by his presentation of the studies in which he took part, and we continued the conversation over lunch a few days later.
Tuesday night, everyone, happy with the offer of free food, went out to the beautiful evening weather for the reception. Here, I spoke to a few other people, thrilled at the variety of perspectives and disciplines represented.